Some Like It Hot: Special Edition/Gold Edition (1959)

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Released 30-Oct-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-Nostalgic Look Back (31:14)
Featurette-Memories From The Sweet Sues (12:03)
Featurette-Virtual Hall Of Memories (21:03)
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:18)
Trailer-Avanti; Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes; The Fortune Cookie
Trailer-Kiss Me Stupid; Irma La Douce; The Apartment
Gallery-Original Press Book Gallery
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1959
Running Time 116:30
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (20:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Billy Wilder
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Tony Curtis
Jack Lemmon
Marilyn Monroe
George Raft
Pat O'Brien
Joe E. Brown
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Adolph Deutsch


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Swedish
Finnish
Norwegian
Danish
Portuguese
Polish
Greek
Hungarian
Hebrew
Turkish
Czech
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Okay, so they announce a Special Edition of one of the greatest comedies of all time - indeed the American Film Institute's greatest comedy of all time - and you have the immediate expectations: the same old DVD transfer recycled from the earlier release with a couple of boring extras added on to the package and voila - slap the Special Edition tag on the DVD. Well that was the sort of thing I was expecting too, but sometimes you have a rather large surprise. This Special Edition is no simple rehash of the previous release of the film on Region 4 DVD.

    Which is of course entirely fitting for a film of this distinction. Nominated for six Academy Awards in 1959 - Best Director, Best Actor, Best Screenplay Adaptation, Best Cinematography (Black and White), Best Art Direction (Black and White) and Best Costume Design (Black and White) - this is one of the best films in the legacy of the legendary Marilyn Monroe. Whilst the film only walked away with one Oscar, for Best Costume Design (Black and White), the passage of time has seen the film almost elevated to legendary status. It is an overused cliché for sure, but in this case a very apt one: they don't make films like this any more, and frankly the whole film experience is the poorer for it. Long before Dustin Hoffman strutted his stuff in Tootsie, both Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis strutted it in Some Like It Hot - and in the process almost upstaged the siren of the screen at that time. The simple fact is that this is a terrific film that still holds plenty of laughs and displays quite clearly not only the talents of Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, but also proved that Marilyn Monroe was no slouch in the acting stakes. Certainly if she was any hotter on film than this, the celluloid would have melted. If you need a definition of voluptuous, just two names and one film - Marilyn Monroe, Some Like It Hot. They sure don't make women like this anymore and the current crop of devotees to anorexia should take a look at this to see what real sensuality is all about.

   Chicago, 1929, Prohibition. The era of the speak-easy, where booze was available and the jazz was hot. Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon), two financially bankrupt musicians, finally have a job in a speak-easy run by Spats Colombo (George Taft), the boss of the southside. The front for the club is a funeral parlour and everything looks rosy until Toothpick Charlie (George E. Stone) blabs to the police and a raid is on. Making a beeline for the exit as soon as possible the guys find themselves without a gig once again. To make matters worse, Joe has a sure thing at the dogs - which of course is no sure thing, and the coats off their backs are gone. Things could not get much bleaker. So when they call into a booking agent and find themselves with a gig in Urbana, things are just a little better - except they need transport. Borrowing the receptionist's car, they head to the garage to collect it only to inadvertently witness the St Valentine's Day massacre of seven rival gang members by Spats. They need to get out of town in a hurry and so become Josephine and Daphne, and join an all-girl band for a three week gig in Florida.

   The only real problem is that the vocalist for the band is Sugar Cane (Marilyn Monroe) and both "gentlemen" take a rather obvious fancy to the blonde bombshell. The train ride down to Florida proves to be a tough time, but the time in Florida proves tougher as Josephine really falls for Sugar (and vice versa when Joe/Josephine takes on the guise of a junior member of the Shell Oil family!), a playboy falls for Daphne and Spats turns up for a convention and still wants them both dead, especially when he discovers them in the same hotel. Lost the drift? Good, just get out and watch the film!

    The more often I watch the film, the more convinced I am that this does border on being legendary, and it remains an enjoyable romp even after forty years. The story is pretty well put together, as one would expect for an Oscar nominee for Best Screenplay Adaptation, but it is the performances that bring a story to life, and here you have three very fine ones from the main leads. The obvious standout here is Jack Lemmon as he carries off the role of a woman far far better than Dustin Hoffman ever did. Mind you, seeing Tony Curtis done up as a woman is certainly an eye opener! I have always believed that Marilyn Monroe was a pretty good comedy actress and this really proves it in my view. Rarely do films these days get three great performances from its three leads, but this one sure did. Superbly directed by Billy Wilder, with some fine cinematography to boot, the whole film is really a treasure from start to finish. This view seems to also be held by the voters at the Internet Movie Database, who currently have the film ranked at number 39 in the Top 250 of all time, rather well up on the ranking of 48 of ten months ago.

    I thought that the previous incarnation made this forty year old classic look pretty darn good. Well if anything this incarnation makes it look even better. The film continues to entertain and the transfer gives this every opportunity to be a frequent visitor to your player over the coming years.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer itself sort of comes with some good news and some bad news. The bad news is really minor stuff - the transfer is now presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, still very close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 as was used in the original DVD release. Believe me when I say the difference is so small that it is not of concern. However, the good news is that this transfer has got the 16x9 enhancement that was obviously lacking in the original release.

    Just like the original transfer, this is a nicely sharp and detailed image that is still fairly atypical for black and white films in Region 4. The only lapse from a high degree of sharpness is in the close ups of Marilyn Monroe, which employ the obligatory slightly soft focus common in films of the era. Shadow detail is still as good as I could have hoped for in a film of this age, even though this seems to be a very slightly darker transfer than the original release. I still don't believe that anyone would have any serious concerns in this area though. There remain the few odd bouts of minor grain that were present in the original release transfer, which would seem to suggest that it is inherent in the source material. Nonetheless, it never becomes a distraction and certainly is significantly better than at least one 1970s film I have seen recently. Even with the minor issue with grain, the general transfer is quite clear. There did not appear to be any significant problem with low level noise in the transfer.

    This transfer has some terrific looking grey scales that really make this a nicely vibrant black and white transfer. Despite the passage of ten months of reviewing DVDs of films from the 1920s to the 2000s, there are still few black and white films as good-looking as this. The whole transfer though is perhaps not quite as consistent as I remembered the original transfer, but perhaps I am being more critical here than I should. Certainly when I directly compared specific scenes, such as the arrival of the girls' bus at the hotel in Florida, the newer transfer looked noticeably better.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. One of the problems of the original release was some rather noticeable aliasing, and this was readily apparent when I did my direct scene comparisons. The new transfer certainly still has a few odd instances of aliasing, but they are far less pronounced here. A good comparison is the steps around the 72:15 mark: in the old transfer these aliased very badly, but in the new transfer it is far less obvious. Apart from the few instances of aliasing, there were no other really apparent film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. As far as film artefacts go, this is quite a reasonably clean transfer and there were very few blemishes that could be called distracting.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming very early at 20:44. Indeed, it was so early that I was not really expecting it, and thus it is perhaps a bit more obvious because of it. It is not especially disruptive to the film though.

    There is a reasonable selection of subtitle options on the DVD, and I checked out about the first twenty five minutes of the film with the English subtitles. They are pretty good but they do miss a fair bit of the dialogue even though it is not really essential stuff. The problem is that the story was so well written that the dialogue, even the minor stuff, had a specific point to it and thus missing anything out of the subtitles robs the dialogue of some of its bite.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    One of the big beefs with the original release was the fact that we did not get a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as stated on the packaging. Well, the only option that we get as far as soundtracks go on the new release is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. I have to say that even though I have now listened to the 5.1 soundtrack, I really do miss having the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. Whilst the 5.1 soundtrack adds a bit more bite to the music, the film is so heavily dialogue based that sometimes that bite is just a little distracting.

    The dialogue and vocals come up well in the transfer, and are very easy to understand. There are no problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The music score comes from the pen of Adolph Deutsch and a suitably supportive effort it is too, although always overshadowed by the songs done by Marilyn Monroe. Running Wild might be nice but when she sings I Wanna Be Loved By You what male could possibly resist!

    The big plus of the 5.1 soundtrack is not so much the addition of the surround and bass channels, which I have to say are a tad restrained, but rather the added space that the full bit rate affords the transfer. It completely removes the slightly strident nature of the sound that slightly hobbled the original release and adds a much more natural feel to the whole film. The minor annoyance is the slightly heavy bass added to the double bass in the soundtrack, which creates a slightly unnatural balance in a couple of the songs - notably Running Wild. Since this is a heavily dialogue-driven film, the full benefits of the six channels are not really noticed, but is nonetheless welcomed. The soundtrack is free from any noticeable distortions.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Since the Special Edition banner has been applied to the DVD, obviously the extras package has to reflect a lot more than the theatrical trailer of the original release. It does, although it is a pity that they did not get Tony Curtis to do a commentary on the film.

Menu

    Whilst themed similarly to the original release, these are significantly improved with the main and scene selection menus getting audio and animation enhancements - as well as 16x9 enhancement. Nicely done.

Featurette - Nostalgic Look Back (31:14)

    This is an interview, filmed this year in the famed Formosa Cafe in Hollywood (just over the road from the Goldwyn Studios where the film was shot), with Leonard Maltin and Tony Curtis. Unfortunately, Tony Curtis is getting a little long in the tooth and might be suffering the effects of a lifetime of one too many parties, but still manages to come up with some nice background stuff about the movie, most especially regarding the impact of Marilyn Monroe on the film. Overall, this is a gem of an interview and the big complaint is why the heck did they not do a much longer one? This is a good example of the sort of stuff that they should be getting from a lot of the older actors on their big films before they depart this mortal coil. What would we have given to hear Jack Lemmon's thoughts on the film? Presented in a Full Frame format which is not 16x9 enhanced, it comes with nice clean Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Technically this is really good stuff too.

Featurette - Memories From The Sweet Sues (12:03)

    Again - too darn short! This is a collection of memories from four of the band members in the film - Marian Collier, Laurie Mitchell, Sandra Warner and Joan Nicholas - gathered together and recorded this year. Whilst Marian and Sandra are the main contributors, this is fascinating reminiscing from the ladies about a film that they obviously enjoyed making. Some of their female insights into the immortal Marilyn Monroe are wonderful. Between these two featurettes, you get a really nice feel about the making of the film that should have been a couple of hours longer in my view. Presented in a Full Frame format, which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. This is also technically good stuff. Sandra Warner manages to blow some illusions about the advertising posters for the film!

Featurette - Virtual Hall Of Memories (21:03)

    A rather intriguing presentation style for what essentially are a whole bunch of behind the scenes photographs, publicity photos and excerpts form the film. It is all accompanied by some audio enhancement. Whilst I cannot say that this is really something that I would enjoy seeing repeated too often, it is different and it is effective. Presented in a Full Frame format which is not 16x9 enhanced, it comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Unfortunately, the mastering is not the best and there are some aliasing issues as well as some moiré artefacting in the transfer.

Theatrical Trailer (2:18)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, this is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. I think you can take it from the trailer that a certain Miss Monroe stars in this film. However, it is riddled with film artefacts as well as having a strident soundtrack that is blessed with some top end distortion. Technically not the best but at least it is something.

Other Trailers (6)

    Trailers for six other Billy Wilder films - Avanti (2:29), The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes (3:06), The Fortune Cookie (2:33), Kiss Me Stupid (2:31), Irma La Douce (3:43) and The Apartment (2:16) - of which no less than four starred Jack Lemmon. Apart from the fact that they highlight the obvious omission of at least Irma La Douce and The Apartment from Region 4 DVD, they are uniformly ropey in quality - and that is being rather polite. All are not 16x9 enhanced and come with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. They are generally presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, apart from The Fortune Cookie which appears to be 2.00:1 and Kiss Me Stupid which is 1.33:1. The Apartment might actually be 1.66:1 by the looks of it. Overall they are blessed with copious film artefacts, some poorish colour in the case of The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes and some very hissy sound in the case of Kiss Me Stupid. Interesting enough, but some restoration work might have been worthwhile here.

Gallery - Original Press Book Gallery

    Exactly what it says it is - the original press book presented in a gallery format so that you can read (if you have a large enough display) all the articles and adverts. This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 that is 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as we can ascertain the only significant differences between the Region 4 release and the Region 1 release are the fact that the Region 1 release misses out on:

    The Region 4 release on the other hand misses out on:

    Region 4 all the way in my view!

    For our Region 2 readers, you should note that whilst this is a R2/R4 coded DVD, it would seem that the content of this release is marginally different to the Region 2 release. It would appear that the language choices are slightly more on the Region 2 release (having German and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks) but the subtitle options are slightly less (having only English, German, Spanish and German for the Hearing Impaired). It may also be that the Region 2 release misses out on the trailer for The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes.

Summary

    Some Like It Hot is a terrific film that boasts arguably the finest career performances from Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. With the addition of a good extras package, as well as the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and 16x9 enhancement, this DVD is certainly a good reason to replace your older plain Jane release in Region 4. This is a film that should be in every collection, and the package is certainly now worthier of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, October 06, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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